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American University College Essay

In recent years, there has been debate about how the commitment to diversity on university campuses intersects with the issues of free speech, safe spaces, and trigger warnings. One way to answer this prompt is to tackle those issues head-on. Some useful context and a few perspectives on these issues can be found here.

 

If you take this approach to the prompt, you should avoid making generalized statements about whether or not you think “safe spaces” are good or bad. A better approach would be to write a response to a specific quote from someone else. For example, in the series of radio interviews I’ve linked to above, Cameron Okeke discusses the role that safe spaces played in his education. In a piece that he wrote for Vox, he says:

 

If you want the perspective of someone with PTSD, then you better be prepared to do the work to make them comfortable enough to speak up in class, and that means giving them a heads up when discussing potentially triggering topics.

 

Do you agree or disagree? What kinds of institutional support beyond trigger warnings might be needed to make people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) comfortable enough to speak up? When you pick out a specific claim and respond to it, you are not only giving your essay a clear focus but also demonstrating that you can participate in a thoughtful discussion of texts — something that you will be doing no matter what university you end up at or what you decide to major in.

 

Another way to respond to this prompt is to begin with a story from your own personal experience and then discuss how that experience shaped your ideas about what an “inclusive environment” looks like. For example, maybe you went to the county courthouse with your mother and saw a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the courthouse door. How did seeing that statue make you feel? Can an inclusive environment “include” such monuments? Creating a welcoming space might be more than just a matter of welcoming people from a variety of different backgrounds into that space; it might also have something to do with the plaques, memorials, and architecture of the space itself.

 

A third way of approaching this topic might be to talk about an environment that you felt did a particularly good job of welcoming diverse perspectives and ideas. Maybe you had a high school English teacher who always seemed like she was able to get a good, respectful discussion going. How did she accomplish that? Maybe instead of just tossing out an “open-ended” question and letting the loudest students in the classroom talk, the teacher asked everyone to write down a response first and then had you form smaller discussion groups — giving those who might be more shy an avenue to start speaking.

 

On its face, this teaching technique might not seem directly related to welcoming people from diverse backgrounds to share their perspectives. But on closer examination, the link might be clear.

 

If a classroom only has one student from India, and the text for discussion on that particular day happens to be Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, it is very easy for that student to feel the pressure of somehow serving as the “example” of all of Indian culture to the class as a whole. Some students might welcome that role, but for many that can be an uncomfortable position.

 

Perhaps the small group discussion technique lets students address each other as individuals and sustain a more dynamic conversation that does not put one particular student “on the spot.” If you are interested, USC’s Rossier School of Education has assembled an online library of resources for building an inclusive classroom that you can investigate.

 

Whatever approach you take, I would encourage you to focus in on something specific: a specific quote from someone, a specific personal experience, or a specific form of institutional support that you encountered. This prompt runs the risk of inviting vague pontificating, but a thoughtful discussion usually begins with an analysis of a specific text or situation from which more general conclusions are later developed.

 

For information on the application essays for other schools, check out CollegeVine’s database of essay guides.

 

Want help on your American University application or essays? Learn about our College Apps Program and Essay Editing Program.

 

Want us to quickly edit your college essay? Submit it to our Rapid Review Program, and we’ll get it back to you quickly with comments from our expert team.

Prospective students can apply online either the Common Application or Coalition Application. In addition to submitting a completed application, there are several components the Admissions Committee requires that help us evaluate you as a candidate for admission.

Application Checklist

  • Complete the Common Application (including the application essay) or the Coalition Application .

  • Transmit your test results. AU requires official scores from the SAT I or the ACT (without writing) from freshman applicants who are attending high school in the United States or who have been home schooled.
  • Ask a school official to complete the Secondary School Report and letters of recommendation. Freshman applicants should include one letter of recommendation from a teacher, as well as one from the college guidance counselor, written on school letterhead or the recommendation forms provided by the application. Please make sure your name and date of birth are included on each recommendation. Be sure to provide your counselor or teacher with a stamped envelope addressed to AU.

  • Pay the nonrefundable application fee. Using a credit card or e-check, pay the $70 application fee required for all applications. If payment of the application fee would cause your family undue hardship, fee waivers are available (U.S. citizens and permanent residents only).

  • Send your application materials. Send all supporting documents to the following address: American University, Undergraduate Admissions, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016-8001.

  • Send your Mid-Year Report. Have your school counselor complete, sign and submit the Mid-Year Report along with your official mid-year grades as soon as they become available.

Minimum Admissions Requirements

Freshman applicants who follow the U.S. educational system should have completed at least 16 college preparatory secondary school units. We require that you have 4 units in English, 3 units in academic mathematics, including the equivalent of 2 units in algebra and 1 unit of geometry, at least 2 units of laboratory science, at least 2 units of social science and 2 units of foreign language. Successful candidates for admission have usually completed a rigorous college preparatory course of study that goes beyond the minimum requirements above.

English Proficiency

AU requires strong English language skills. All applicants (including US citizens) whose first language is not English can prove English proficiency by one of the following:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) - TOEFL code 5007
    • Internet based test (iBT) score of 80 or higher. Sub-scores for each section of the TOEFL should be 20 or higher. To be considered competitive, a 90 TOEFL iBT score or above is recommended.
    • Paper-based test score of 550 or higher
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
    • Composite score of 6.5 or higher. (Sub-scores for each section of the IELTS should be 6.0 or higher.)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE)
  • SAT Critical Reading score of 530 or higher

For international freshmen applicants who require an F or J visa:
TOEFL/IELTS is not required of non-native English speakers who are educated in US or IB secondary schools inside or outside the US, or in countries where English is the native language, for at least 4 consecutive years (grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 or equivalent) where English is the only medium of instruction and no ESL courses have been taken. English speaking countries include: UK, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (except Quebec).

Please Note:

  • Once submitted, your application and other documents and materials become the property of AU and cannot be returned.
  • Students who will be receiving any scholarship and/or financial aid award will be notified with the letter of admission.
  • You will be admitted only for the semester indicated in your letter of admission. If you are unable to enroll for that semester, you must request a deferral.

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